So... I know I was very late on this one, but I do honestly want to give each one its credit and Massacre in particular as it holds the honor of finally giving us a clear view of its namesake.
Anyhow, I hope folks enjoy this.
Black Book Two: Massacre
Chapter One:Road To War
This is essentially a quick 'Last Time, on the Horus Heresy' section. It gives you a rundown of Horus's plotting for the Heresy and the steps he took to prep for it. And more hilariously how its set as a slow meticulous buildup and then in like two paragraphs it all falls apart due to Angron and Fulgrim messing things up. Sort of has 'other person knocks down the house of cards right while you are putting the last one on' kind of spirit.
This could have been a fairly stale section, but the rather interesting note is the tone given to Horus. There is a bit of an air of 'well, here is the whys and hows of his grievances'. It feels like the author is speculating on the things that could have pushed him over the edge beyond chaos.
In fact, the section almost spells it out, the potential of Chaos being to blame was almost treated like a mental crutch by the higher echelons of Terra. It made his treason more understandable and less reality breaking to their worldview when they could play a literal 'well, the devil made him do it!' Card. It's a nice touch.
Chapter Two: The Massacre
To my knowledge, we have never had a dedicated 'this is the Dropsite Massacre' novel. We have had bits and pieces fed to us over several books but we have never had a proper picture of the whole affair before. And boy was that picture not complementary to the Dropsite Victim-Trio.
This section makes a valiant attempt at making the Massacre a full and flavorful performance by all actors involved with special effort dedicated to its victims. It goes out of its way to establish they whys and hows of their deployment, why they opted to fight like that and that it wasnt as idiotic as it sounds.
To give an example, why did the Victims strike so quickly? Aside from Ferrus's whole rage thing, the XIX had sent a scout ahead and learned that the Rebel fleet was nowhere to be seen. It made sense for Horus to scatter his fleet to gather resources after the Istvaan III fiasck and it fit his profile. Its portrayed as a sort of golden chance to strike while the traitors werent expecting it. Weighed against Vulkan and Corax still being iffy on the whole thing was Ferrus basically browbeating them into helping him.
Thats a kind of microcosm of this section, it makes an effort to make the hammier BL stuff seem at least reasonable if not rational or completely logical. Ferrus seems to have had a talent for bullying Primarchs and garnering results from it. When we have seen even the most respected and senior Primarchs get overruled or near blows over far slighter presumption. Corax and Vulkan being so docile is really weird, especially Corax since both BL and FW establish that these sort of headlong open rushes are something he violently dislikes. And the fact that Corax is among the most temperamental Primarchs when it comes to being bossed around.
But again, they are playing cleanup here and I try to look at it from the PoV of how they cleaned it up.
Everyone gets a good showing and the tempo of the battle is well paced, you see the push and pull among the brawling Legions as much as you do the sheet slaughter of the Massacre.
My highlight here is probably the DG and Sallies slugging it out. I have never understood how two Legions so similar and yet so antithetical to each other have barely interacted insetting. Two heavy-infantry centered, tough guy forces with completely incompatible philosophies and experience. You'd think it writes itself. Needless to say that seeing them brawl in trench warfare (with the Sallies at actual numerical strength for once) was quite fun.
Ferrus sort of gets a Ferrus Manus up his rear with his portrayal in this section, charging ahead of his bleeding allies and being completely cut-off. Frankly, aside from dramatics its a wonder he wasnt bombed off of the field. Heck the book even notes that he was pretty much the only Primarch that didnt pull back when the bombardment got too heavy. I hate to harp on this but its a good example of the points where FW falls victim to cleaving too tightly to some of BL's sillier stuff. They try and build around it but it is painfully out if place.
Its quite fortunate that the IH get a far better treatment later in the book and even do have this patched up a bit!
Chapter Three: The Istvaan Legions
The first of the BB's 'Last time! On the X Legion!' Sections, these are basically a mix of quick catch-ups on what an already-introduced Legion has been up to since its last appearance and a chance to throw some more lore in.
Its not too big a section, a half page and sketch for each of the Legions with things like an estimation of their losses during the Istvaan III fiasco and some notes on their setup.
Nothing much to say here tbh, but as always the art is quite enjoyable. Some folks are irked by just showing pictures of power armor, I personally love learning what different markings mean and tidbits like when different pieces of wargear entered use.
Chapter Four: The Iron Hands
Ah, the Iron Hands. Some call them the least loved child of the Legions and I have always thought this was profoundly inaccurate.
After all, the company needs to remember you exist to be least loved.
Jokes aside, the Iron Hands came into this book starved for attention development and depth beyond 'pricks with a tendency to stick robotic pricks onto themselves to augment their prickishness'.
And boy did that not happen, in absolutely the best way.
Instead, Massacre steers violently into the skid so hard that the car flies over the ditch and punches through the head of a warhound titan while guitar riffs play in the background.
Malevolence makes the Iron Hands the living definition of brutal, overly manly and shockingly barbaric bronze age heroes. They are not the Odysseus trying to be clever, they are Romulus punching the head off of their twin for a slight and then flexing all over Latium until they flex so hard that they ascend into the heavens. They are Lu Bu and Hercules, not Cao Cao or Thesius. They are the Emp's absolute willingness to crush everything in his path and grind their bones into dust before raising a monument to their awesomeness.
And I adore this.
Enough metaphors and more actual meat.
We are shown that the Iron Hands began as cousins to the Dusk Raiders after a fashion, being similarly rooted in not-Britain and similarly fond of adopting the tactics of their ancestors. The Pre-Ferrus Iron Hands (Stormwalkers) were known for the gimmick of using allied militia as bait to draw opponents into overcommitment before whaling on them when they were too close in to realize they had made a Legion-sized error. There is something awesome about the mental image of an enemy army attacking another only for a third army to literally fall onto the middle of their formation from the sky.
Then we meet Ferris and Medusa and the usual thing follows about 'and then the fire na-erm, and then the Primarch appeared'. We hear the usual thing about the Primarch changing everything and fine-tuning the Legion to their preferences. Yet, the book goes out of its way to begin showing that Ferrus was transformative but in a way that only made the IH more of what they already were. The book shows them as innately pitiless, remarkably disciplined and shockingly effective at leveraging these traits into an aptitude for absolutely catastrophic warfare while evading the kinds of losses that characterize other Legions with those traits.
The book outright says what the IH are, they are conquerors obsessed with strength and I love how unapologetic they are about this, Ferrus makes them more technologically adept to be sure and they lose their ability to care about mortals to any degree but he makes them effective. The IH see themselves as a hammer that exists only to break everything in its path, an attitude that wins them no shortage of enemies but also shows in the respect they are given (and the book still notes that anyone sane takes them over DG or WE, since with the IH its more neglect than actively trying to kill them). Ferrus is not made sympathetic or a hero but he also comes off as so straightforward that it is hard not to respect the guy, something reaffirmed in the Primarch novel that I like is that angle that Ferrus is an absolute ass but the very first person he judges for failure is himself. Sort of like having a boss with impossible standards but never once flinches from owning up to his mistakes, you hate him but damned if you dont give him credit for being consistent.
Thats a key point that this appendix does show very well I think, the IH got Massacred not because they were stupid or incapable but because Istvaan IS actually the kind of battle they excel at and might have realistically won without the betrayal even with Ferrus being in a blind rage. This is also leveraged well throughout, the IHs have always had a temper and a bellicose nature but unlike alot of the other 'controlled anger Legions' you have this constant sense of them going out of their way to squeeze it out throughout the battle in a smart way. The sort of method that you could see get screwed up when fighting such a personal battle and even the sort of thing that they themselves might not have registered since in a way the Massacre was a subtle but devastating warping of the scales of anger and discipline.
Speaking of discipline, their style of organization is really neat to me. The theme of self-reliance and strength balanced against discipline and logic plays out here as well, with every aspect of the Legion being a functionally independent logistical Order that can readily flow together and fall apart as needed for battle. Sure, everyone has a clan and they compete for resources and glory, but it is overlaid onto this system. Resulting in this extremely efficient gestalt of different entities that could be called up during battle and given jobs which they could independently execute while interlocking into the greater battleplan. Which in turn obviously made the IH battleplan prone to being obsessed with starting objectives and hard to redirect, something Ferrus figured and patched with extremely powerful lines of command who were trusted to correct for error (a system which made it very easy to spot who either excelled or screwed up a job). We also hear alot about how well-resourced they were and how much they invented but that is so pleasingly secondary to me that I cant overstate it.
I like this so much and I cant say enough about it, the IH as presented here are Iron Knights. Not in the DA 'very slim grasp on knighthood beyond monastic orders' sort of way but in a genuine 'how knighthood and most warrior castes functioned' kind of way. They were a Legion of warriors enslaved to a brutal system of self-enforcing discipline who fought for tangible rewards from their liege-lords and for the honor of their clan while simultaneously having a robotic fixation on the most exact and logical way of going about said goals.
Their exemplary battle which was cribbed for the Primarch Novel was the Fall of the Lords of the Gardinaal and its not entirely that different from the novel. I thought it did a good job of showing that mix of brute practicality and knightly/bronze-age ego, with Ferrus doing his job precisely as instructed but also in a way that made it perfectly and grizzly clear who was in charge. It helps that no matter what else you thought about the book, the Gardinaal are hilariously evil.
Fan-bloody-tastic, now if only BL had done more than a single Primarch novel with this awesomeness.
Chapter Five: The Night Lords
A very tricky one, although (shocker, I know) I rather liked it.
This appendix is critiqued by some due to the beginning, with the VIII revealed to have always been less than lovely folks. More specifically they were sourced to Bane from the Dark Knight Rises, no seriously, a Legion made of people born from the shockingly effective 'toss people in a whole they can survive in' model of judicial punishment. I am not 100% sure how effective that is as a method of imprisonment and seems shockingly light compared to what I imagined was the Terran norm of being blood eagled after being injected full of terror hallucinogens and a local witch imprinted the image of your parents in bed into your head before being tossed into a pit filled with some sort of demon-lemming-piranha hybrids while an egyptian curse is enacted to grant you immortality. But a hole works too, I guess.
Speaking of creative punishments, the general idea of the VIIIth was always seemingly meant to be the Emp's version of the horny-jail bat. A stick meant to thwack anyone that steps out of line and to be generally very scary, although with a very interesting take on the NL's usual 'woe is me, I was a tortured child so that justifies me flaying ninety random people to make my new carpet' shtick, namely that the idea was that the NL were actually fairly specific in their mandate initially.
The Emp used them on people that nominally surrendered to the Imperium and then continued doing illegal things, not light 'oh they prayed' sort of illegal either. The examples given mention such delightful crimes as gene-atrocities, witch-breeding, warpy-sounding religions, basically the excesses of Old Night were the sort of things the VIIIth were originally bred to crush before they could thrive in the shadow of the Imperium (the irony given that the WB are in this book, is palpable).
The funny thing is that the Emp bred a specific tendency to enable this behaviour which would go on to bite him in the rear with Kurze, the VIIIth were made to, when you actually bother to produce them right, have an insanely simplistic view of right and wrong coupled with an overwhelming need to punish crime. They were said to have this sad sort of nobility, since they were born from Terra's monsters to ensure a future where more of their ilk could not exist, but AK draws a melancholy observation here as to whether it was too kind to think they were noble even then?
Its sort of funny to me that people say this book doesnt give the NLs a tragic past though, because the BBs do do that here. It was always a bit dark but the possibility is there that the VIIIth DID start out as what Kurze wanted them to be, but that his utter lack of self-awareness and the taint of Nostromo tainted these proverbial sort of black knights into rampant monster-gangsters looking for self-aggrandizing excuses.
Some interesting things do pop up though, namely that we see what parts of their gene-seed arent just Nostromo being Nostromo. It's mentioned that the gene-seed does tend to give you an unhealthy pallor as well as making your eyes very light-sensitive and reveals that NLs actually do sort of need their helmets on during the day to prevent severe discomfort. I imagine the Nostromons sort of got the raw end of the stick here.
Speaking of Nostromons and raw ends of the stick, the book spends a fair bit expanding on grimderp-incarnate, with lazish detail being paid to exactly how much the Emp should have nuked this place from orbit until the warp-spirit of Edge manifested and he could ram his sword into it. We hear about the various sorts of extremely awful gangs that sound like someone took Necromunda as a challenge and their exceedingly complex set of allegiances and conflicts and skin-based fashion.
The book notes that no one really noticed how Kurze pulled a shockingly (and accidental) Horus on the Legion, rotting it from the inside out without anyone really noticing it at first. Instead of the grim tragedy of the VIIIth, the book goes out of its way to fairly accurately pin every single major NL character by noting that they quickly developed a visible fixation with snide fatalism and being needlessly horrific. The hilarious part is the book actually notes that Kurze actually really liked the ideas of the VIIIth and tried to make them manifest, but being Kurze, ended up with a psychotic legion of criminals and too deluded to realize he had slowly begun to overshot his mandate. The book pretty solidly strikes an interesting counter-argument to the 'Emp made me do it' excuse usually favored by Talos and others by noting that in a number of cases the NLs actually more or less just interpreted orders as they liked. This seems to have slowly escalated until the NLs were sent into pseudo-exile until the Heresy.
The organizational section here is a real treat to read because it comes across as a really pretentious clustercluck, AK seems to make an effort to sort what all the regents and counts and captains are before we are given the front row to his realization that it was all sort of bs. NL leaders at the end of the day behaved like the organized criminals that they were, adopting alot of fancy affectations and claims to pride in order to try and cover their incredible disorganization and tendency towards infighting. This section in general seems to be a really fun play on ADB's work and it really does vindicate a certain serf's observations.
Now we come to their three exemplary battles, two of which do my absolute favorite thing of showing unusual sides to a Legion.
The first, the Vhnori Resurgence, gives us light into what the NLs originally were, the almost noble Bain-knockoff exterminators of monsters. It shows the VIIIth fighting against a Terran rebel canyon-city which had decided to seek the help of one of the 'misunderstood' groups the Emp sought to destroy, the Crimson Walkers. The Walkers gathered up everyone in the city that resisted them and began creating all sorts of monsters from them while the rest of the city watched, from zombie hordes to what sound like some human-centipede monsters to the enslaved psykers. This fight has the VIIIth not as bullies but almost Witcher archetypes crossed with avenging angels, from seemingly random bombardments to allow assault companies to cling to the canyon walls and gather data before descending like a swarm of bats, to methodically tearing through the abominations while screaming in the voices of the dead to outright collapsing the canyon to bury the city and the Walkers with them. I'm a sucker for Old Night monsters so I loved this one, so is French apparently since we all know he let one survive.
The second is another unconventional one, showing the NLs fighting Orks. Otherwise known as the people their usual tactics work least well at, which allows the NL to show they are more than a one-trick pony and I am so here for that. Using the time honored tactics of running away, letting allies die as needed and carefully nipping away at a massive WAAGH, a fairly small group of NLs were able to cripple a WAAGH by the time reinforcements arrived to finish them off. The NLs were condemned for not joining in on their allies' suicidal assault but I do like this little bit because the NLs were actually the smart ones and proved that they understand how to intelligently tear apart a far greater foe who doesnt register fear properly.
The last one is them torturing people, which is such a dull thing at this point that I am inclined to yawn. The only amusing thing is that they were sent to this planet because the locals figured that they could scare the Imperium away by torturing officials to death and returning their mutilated remains piece by piece. Irony ensues.
Over all, I like one, don't let the haters tell you the NLs were always the same, this book here gives you a nice counterargument.
Chapter Six: The Salamanders
Where the IHs are seemingly left to languish, the Sallies have been more or less asphyxiated by attention with a truly daunting array of books. Yet, they have always been profoundly boring an indistinct for me for all of that, there was just never that much attention paid to what made them unique besides a functional sense of exceedingly childish empathy (feeling bad for the starving people ain't much when you are plated in gold and not inclined to at least throw some bread their way).
So I never expected much here, boy was I wrong.
This appendix is great, so damned good that if it wasnt for what comes after it I would call it my favorite of the book. You see the Sallies empathy and heroism angle steered into so firmly and violently that it becomes this disturbing and inhuman parody. Like someone that is too nice, too heroic to the point where they are this bizarre twist on humanity.
And thats the trick, its bred into them. The Sallies arent just nice people, they are tragically and insanely nice. I don't mean that as a fun exaggeration, they are literally insane by design and I am so here for that that I am buying a property and looking into buying a plot in the graveyard.
This is the section that introduces the 'Trefoil' Legions, the trio of Legions that the Emp kept back from general service for some reason and then purged all records of their creation and what exactly he did to them.
You know who the other two were? The XXth and the VIth. That's right, the werewolves and the living memes were the Sallies level of altered. That is how much was profoundly wrong with the XVIIIth from the start, but AK glibly notes that they were so successful at their PR that everyone sort of forgot their murky beginnings.
The book starts from there, with notes of 'The Fearless' being issued only in piecemeal by the Emp over their early years as reinforcements, specialist units attached to other forces and emergency support for human colonies. Where they were noted to have this peculiar tendency for always finding the most hazardous and hardest fighting in any given battle.
Thats where their name came from, and it quickly stopped being a compliment. You see, the Sallies were always the defenders, the last ones out and the tragic saviors. But that's the thing, they were always that and it quickly began to terrify mortal and unnerve Astartes, because the Fearless seemed obsessed with this stuff. And that's where the cracks start to show, the Sallies arent just the parody of nice guys, they are the logical conclusion of someone like that, a literally suicidal madman obsessed with using themselves as living shields. More someone's brain cut open and hardwired to fit a superhero archetype than something human, and its such a damned brilliant take that it functionally subverts all of their past books at once and adds this unnerving dimension to nearly every Sally.
I revel in it, the most 40k thing possible is that each ones of those childish acts of compassion and heroic last stands and remorse are all the result of their having an entirely different sort of human weakness carved out of them. In some ways thats by far more chilling than what was done to the rest of the Astartes and it is so intoxicating to think about!
Ahem, anyway, this tendency eventually got the Legion to the point where it was nearly dead (another vaguely unnerving and seemingly programmed tendency) until Vulkan showed up.
This was essentially an abridged version of his depressingly boring Primarch novel which somehow made a suicidal last stand on a volcano planet by a Waagh which Vulkan blew up by ramming a Termite into its Hulk from space like a missile somehow boring.
There isnt that much after this, with notes being made of Vulkan's reforms and installation of spirituality into the Legion which is all a very nice way of saying that he taught them to not behave like giant Lemmings (with mixed results, given the book).
The organizational section is really interesting as well as it happens, even if the Sallies arent very interesting in terms of their Legion layout. The Legion as a whole adheres to the standard with only really mixing it up in terms of liking 120 men (down from the Pre-Vulkan 200 norm) as the basis of a company and generally liking weapons that offset the fact that they tended to get outnumbered (as well as a preference for seeking out places of battle where they could at least thermopylae the problem). Pyromania aside, there was really no arguing that a flamer made it easier for one guy to hold a hallway than a bolter most times.
It also makes the interesting note as to why the Legion wasn't that big, for all its dragons, xenos raiders and danger, Nocturne was just not the best place to get Astartes from by the usual standard. The people aren't warlike, the emphasis is on strengthening the community and the populace is small. This combined with Vulkan being a craftsman more than a fabricator and as such having no interest in exploiting the mass-production methods for Astartes (refer to my Betrayal review to refresh), meant the Sallies were never going to be big.
Upshot though was the Nocturne was still an absolute prick of a planet, so its people were unnaturally tough, mentally fortified (given its biosphere, I imagine you have to make your peace with drinking dragon blood, piss and the like from a tender age) and cohabiting with dragons resulted in a very low failure rate.
There are other interesting bits of flavor that warm you to the sallies, their nature and culture made them fairly informal outside of combat but with a deep culture of looking after your own affairs. I enjoy the bits like their having a whole array of honors and titles that are used are quiet denotations of status and expertise but are also divorced from rank. They invented Chaplains after a fashion to look after spiritual needs and there is a nice write up on the Promethean Cult, which injects some potential which is later built on.
Its a nice section overall and I enjoyed it, but nearly as much as what comes next though.
The Tempest Galleries, their one exemplary battle and (insert Thanos voice) 'it was beautiful'. THIS is what I want BL to write about if they want bolterporn, THIS is what I want when you tell me a Legion is going to nearly get itself killed, GIVE ME MORE OF THIS.
Ahem, so there was this empire on Terra (charmingly called an Ethnarchy) that had insane DAoT shields and was so heavily armed and shielded that the Emp had lost a million men and 10k TWs trying to crack it.
So, after a few decades of watching the Ethnarch presumably mooning him from next door, the Emp figured out that their weapons and shields were powered by a very deeply buried power source (like, halfway down the mantle deep) and sent the first 20k XVIII down to kill it astride the first Termites.
And boy did they underestimate what was down there.
What follows is what I can only describe as a Legion fighting armies of Men of Iron Drones in the middle of a DAoT Electo-Magma-Volcano. The battle is four hefty pages long and done in wonderful detail to show exactly how tough these bastards are made to be and for once actually leveraging their artifice to solve a problem for once. 'Oh no, these MoI sure are tough! Whatever do we dooooo?'. 'No problem Jim, Tear off their limbs, fashion grips and beat them to death with their own arms/guns'. I am not doing it justice but boy is it an awesome fight that always gets a goofy grin on my face.
Long story short, the Ethnarchy's shields fail, the Emp presumably gets revenge on the Ethnarchy's years of laughing about his last effort and about a thousand Sallies crawl back to the surface, MoI lore in toe.
I loved this appendix, absolutely fantastic.
What follows blows it out of the water.
Chapter Seven: The Word Bearers
We have arrived ladies and gentlemen, at perhaps the most depth-granting, nuance-grafting and potentially fetishized section of the book.
This Appendix completely contradicts the First Heretic.
Except it also absolutely doesn't.
Now… you could embrace AK being ignorant or handwave it.
Or you could see Bligh pick up ADB's ideas, smile like a madman and then twist them just enough to create the most perfect takedown of the problems with zealotry I have ever seen put to paper.
But I will get to that.
To begin with, the WB were at the beginning the proverbial burners of books, the destroyers of faith and the ultimate oppressors…
This section begins with a story, one which repeated itself countlessly throughout the late unification.
A lone warrior, dressed in black would come to a temple, a demagogues fortress, a sacrificial ground. Masked by a skull and with an eagle-topped mace, he would speak of the Imperial Truth and offer the simple choice to surrender or die. This warrior would typically die, fighting as the hordes tore them apart.
This was the expected result and a fate the Imperial Heralds considered a high honor.
I so love this angle, the Imperial Heralds at their genesis were the ultimate form of the Emp's (horrendously flawed) Lie. Warriors meant to act where the Emp could otherwise not accept a surrender (hilariously enough, it's noted they were fairly uncommonly used since the Emp didnt want to go lighting every second guy on fire on the premise of that leaving no empire to rule).
There was always nuance though and interestingly at odds with what would come, they were always intolerant book burners but before they were noted to be exceedingly educated ones. They sorted through the libraries of the temples they destroyed, going out of their way to preserve knowledge that was 'safe' by Imperial logic.
And it adds hilarity when we meet Lorgar.
The first thing is that this book makes Lorgar, Argel Tal and the rest liars by omission.
AK makes it clear that the Emp forbade worship of himself out the gate with Lorgar.
And Lorgar accepted it, he took command of the Iconoclast Legion and AK notes that while he never denied he might think of the Emp as more than a man, Lorgar in his early years went out of his way to state that he saw the emp as a 'visionary' and was exemplary in hunting down and officially killing anyone that said anything vaguely religious. But he never said anything about himself.
That's the wonderful undercurrent here.
A fanatic does not 100% reason with their beliefs, Lorgar sees the Emp as a capital G god, so he must surely know what Lorgar believes already and that in turn means he must accept it. Because if he didnt he would have said so and he knows because he is a God.
This is the sort of wonderful and unstated logic that pervades this section and builds on the previous work of the BBs to make the Imperium feel large and disjointed.
Sure, Lorgar didnt stand against his Legion's role. There isn't anything wrong with converting the high command privately at first, after all he never said he didnt believe the Emp was a God himself and the Emp would have stepped in if there was a problem right? He is a god after all, so he would know.
Sure, its weird that they are getting more passionate, but thats fine. Its odd that the death herald role is now no-longer a suicide deal and is now given authority over the moral purity of the rest, but thats not too suspect. The Sallies did it and they arent being weird. No one notices when they start changing their lines and start converting their charges.
Its slow, its delightful and it took decades, its lovingly subversive in how quietly Lorgar transformed his Legion with small tweaks, whispers and convenient deaths.
Its so reminiscent of his book, Lorgar is manipulative but also so innocent. He wants the world to be a specific thing so he slowly nudges in ways that no one will catch, and its fine because his God already knows. He is God after all, and that makes it alright.
And it was only when this change was complete that he renamed them, and where the rest of the Imperium thought it merely a name to reflect their bearing the Truth, Lorgar meant for his Word Bearers to carry his truth.
Which is where the delightful crescendo and subversion of the First Heretic comes to full and wonderful blossom.
The Emp didnt know, word reached him and the council through rumor and hearsay. For the Crusade was so big and disjointed that word was hard to pass beyond the essentials and the Primarchs were so trusted as to be left to their own devices with little effort for true oversight.
After all, after seeing by this point how bellicose the proud Legions were, how they were bred to be that, that you can suddenly call a seemingly normal legion back and question them? On their own specialty?
But that wasnt what tripped them up, for the Crusade was this sprawling behemoth where only the essentials were passed along and the greatest of those? Conquest.
But Lorgars ambitions were difficult, they required time and effort and patience. And so, the WB, one of the largest Legions, had steadily ground to a crawl and this soon became disturbing enough for even the great machine of the Imperium to send questions and fact-finding missions.
The Emp did not act at first and AK gives us a number of familiar theories, but one telling nugget he gives us was that the Emp sent emissary after emissary to the world Lorgar conquered. Almost as if to triple check each report before accepting what the hell had been going on under his own nose.
Then the book takes us to Monarchia.
And of course the First Heretic makes sense. Of course the WB were angry and insulted and outraged, they did it all for the Emperor and he dared punish them for it? He is a god, how could he not know and not approve? It shows him as a cruel and petty god for not correcting them from the outset.
Because in a fanatics mind, the issue is never their beliefs, but how the outside world reacts to them. A fervent enough belief in something is enough to slowly sheer you from reality.
And with that, Bligh so delightfully plugs one of the biggest holes in the setting if you wish, or contradicts one of the best books out there if you wish. I choose to say that this was lovely.
Of course, AK has no clue what the heck happened after that and is pretty blunt about the Massacre proving that he might not be able to trust golly gee his sources are saying.
In terms of organization? Complex is the word for it, but also a complex way of saying 'cult'. The WB show some logical tidbits, a preference for maxed out squad sizes and to have a company be designed with a single job in mind. Its sort of funny that AK notes a curiosity in this design, the WB liked to come up with really symbolic ways of forming companies to create really cool imagery but their actual tactics were fairly workmanlike. Sort of like the general that spends more time thinking of a cool formation than being particular keen on how that formation would work in practice (the example being a city-leveling company formed of artillery and flamerthrower units).
The WB get three exemplary battles and I think they did a good job.
The Fall of Orioc is an Imperial Herald shindig, showing their aptitude for really breaking a faith in the most hilariously pointed ways. This particular case being a city in Antarctica inside a mountain with their gods being carved into the rooftop of the central cavern. The battle follows the predictable routine of their shooting down the Imperial Herald's messenger (which in fairness was coming with a 'bow or die' offer) and the Heralds bombed the mountain hard enough to crack it. In a feat of irony, the assault companies deliberately came down amidst the collapsing faces of their gods to light the city on fire before leaving and bombing it enough that the mountain vanished. Ham-fisted, but then again so is the Imperial Everything.
Next is the Melkeji Salvation, where you get a delightful literal case of 'between a rock and a hard place'. The deal is that Melkeji were humans that retained a high quality of life and alot of good tech, with the downside being that they were ruled by Xenos. The further downside is that these Xenos were a race of parasites that ate through a host-a-year individually, which the Melkeji were alright with (as usual, its alright if it isnt you). The Imperium showed up and couldnt beat them, so they called in Lorgar. He whacked them over the head with symbolism so hard that the Xenos died out, along with a ton of the Melkeji in the process. They were then converted into Emp Worshippers, then Chaos worshippers primed to go stab smurfs. I honestly think I'd side with the Melkeji here on the premise that I figure I can get some other genius to bravely to get eaten as a host more likely than not.
Last is the Pyre of Corrinus, our example of post-Monarchia WBs and fun in that we know next to nothing about it. Its a short account because AK is working with the accounts the UMs salvaged from a madman after the WB 'avenged' a destroyed fleet by purging a system of witches. The only issue is that the account portrays the WB weirdly well, leaves a dead system right with a stable warp route right on Ultramar's doorstep and that AK is calling BS on the whole affair.
Chapter Eight: The Legio Atarus
And we come to our second Titan Legio last of all, and boy is this a step-up over the Mortis. Several steps and a flamingo dance during a summer sunset actually.
The quick but effective picture is of a Legio of upstarts from a young and upstart Mechanicus world with a chip on its shoulder and a raging hatred for Kelbor Hal (fair enough, he is sort of unlikable). We see some insight into Martian politics, more elements to the picture of the steady battle towards the obsessively centralized Mechanicus (and the ironically Kelbor-founded anarchy of the Dark Mechanicum) and a pretty cool titan Legio tbh.
Its also a flex to react to Kelbor trying to take your FW to give him a third and then raise the stakes and freaking relocate the thing as a mechanical middle finger.
The Firebrands pretty readily earn their name as you can tell, they are not ones to take any lip from anyone and are more than capable of holding a grudge.
I wont lie, I adore that their presence at the Massacre seems to be less "imperial honor' and more ' finally an excuse to make that Horus Cuss-Hole pay for that one time he used us as bait! The Mortis are here too? Boy oh boy, two grudges for the price of one!'.
I liked Betrayal, alot, but I have to say that Massacre blows it out of the water on the whole. And I dont think we are at the high point yet!
Alright I will admit that 6k-ish words is a bit much for a review but I hope you folks enjoyed it and that it at the very least encourages some discussion! I look forward to the reviews of others as well
Next up is Extermination! (By Eldrad's back hair I hope I get that one done a wee bit faster lol).
Edited by StrangerOrders, 08 October 2020 - 07:26 AM.